Update: Jon Udell at InfoWorld was thinking about Google News yesterday too. I found his post via — wait for it: Techmeme.
Google News is a fabulous creation. Its utility derives from quick indexing of thousands of news sources, which helps infovores like you (you probably came here via Google News) track developments in ongoing stories, or track when a specific company/country/person etc. makes headlines.
But Google News’ has two big problems, at least from a journalist’s POV.
First, Google News’ method of including sources is a little idiosyncratic. Several bloggers and critics have noted over the years that Google News skips some important news sources while including news that’s really opinion (such as this). I assume, although I don’t know, that Google Watch’s affiliation with eWEEK merits its inclusion.
Inclusion of opinion in Google News isn’t a bad thing. Google News inventor Krishna Barat’s original template for the service was, after all, a newspaper, and newspapers have opinion columns. But the problem is that Google News doesn’t (can’t?) distinguish between news and opinion. That leads to a bad user experience, because the users get confused (and then upset) when they click a link and find an opinion column.
The second problem is that Google News isn’t any good at crediting reporters (or bloggers) who break a story first. For example, Ryan Naraine published the story about H.D. Moore’s Google malware search first. But today, when you look on Google News, the top story is an article by Information Week. (disclaimer: Information Week is a competitor to eWEEK).
The stories contain roughly the same information. Google is assuming that the news follower has more information, even if that’s not the case. No credit is given to the person with the scoop.
All this makes Google News a great source of instant info, but not a great archivist. If Google News is a newspaper, it’s a very ephemeral one.
That’s why I enjoy the Techmeme model. While Techmeme has been criticized for including too few sources (it’s much better these days), the site does a great job of providing context. The site that breaks a story or has a particularly good blog post is credited with a prominent position. Related links (2nd movers) are listed below. Well-trafficked related posts receive a secondary tier placing. You can easily search “back issues.”
The two sites are based on different ideas — Google credits keywords, Techmeme credits popularity and scoops — but they can learn a lot from each other.